February 26, 2007
This weekend we had some out of town guests who desired to see the ISKCON. Having seen it a couple of times on similar occasions I thought it would be a boring routine with nothing to look forward to. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Proof of having-relatives-in-the-right-places-has-its-own-advantage was that we never had to wait in any of those long queues. We were quickly taken on tour of the three opulent shrines and then taken to the boardroom. Here we got a quick overview of the wonderful & commendable work that Akshaya Patra accomplishes day on day through its “Mid Day” meal program. An underprivileged child can be fed for a whole year with as little as INR 1200 or 28 dollars.
Next, we were taken through a glimpse of what they call the “India Heritage Theme Park” presentation and it sure looked impressive. With an investment of over 350 crores at Vasanthapura, Bangalore South Taluk, this unique park could be India’s Disneyland. The difference being that instead of Disney characters here children can get to see & experience Krishna through a myriad of ways.
The pet project of the President of ISKCON Bangalore, he feels that Indian children are getting more and more influenced by western characters such as Mickey Mouse & Superman due to their slick presentation. In this age of globalization we would lose out on our culture if it weren’t packaged & presented in an attractive manner. So this is going to be a rather huge attempt to re-introduce Indian mythological heroes in the form of Krishna, Hanuman and Narasimha into the entertainment landscape of Indian children.
Among the major attractions would be a walk through the ‘then’ Vrindavan village, see animated close to life characters enacting scenes from various mythologies, such as Prahalad being tortured and Krishna in Narasimha’s avtaar rushing to his rescue. Giant Water Screens, Laser shows and 4D Theatres where the special effects integrated seats enhance the experience of viewing with varied features such as vibrations, fog & mist blast, air tickle & leg tickle.
[Image Source: Technifex]
Imagine being in a roller coaster ride, close to a 50 ft drop, when the huge serpent-demon Aghasura looms ferociously in front of you and the thrill of being ‘rescued’ by Krishna. That’s India Heritage Theme Park for you.
Cross Posted Here
February 26, 2007
8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide might be unfamiliar to you as a chemical compound, but when reincarnated in the form of a chilli, it is guranteed to give you ‘that burning sensation’. The degree of ‘hotness’ of chillis can infact be measured in units, thanks to the Scoville scale developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912.
In1989 ,Frank Garcia, one of the founders of GNS Spices in Walnut, California discovered a plant with a red fruit in a field of Orange Habaneros. Subsequently, in 1994, Garcia’s Red Savina set a world record for heat at 577,000 Scoville units and was enlisted in the Guinness Book of World Records as The Hottest Chilli in the world.
On September 6, 2000, the Defense Research Laboratory in the Assamese town of Tezpur declared that they recorded an astonishing 855,000 Scoville Heat Units for the Naga Jolokia, named after the ferocious Naga warriors. However, soon after the AP report was published experts like Dr. Paul Bosland, Director of the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University and Dave DeWitt, author of books like The Davinci Kitchen (and you thought there is an industry which did not capitalise on the Dan Brown fever) disputed this claim and questioned the authenticity of the tests.
Two years later, the Chile Pepper Institute received the seed of a chilli named ‘Bhut Jolokia’ from a member who had collected it while visiting India. Dr. Bosland and his colleagues conducted a comparison experiment in 2005 at a plant science research facility close to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The ‘Bhut Jolokia’ recorded an astonishing heat level of 1,001,304 SHU.
“Such is the hotness of the chilli that it can drive away the ghost, and hence the name ” says Anandita Dutta Tamuly who is getting ready to eat not 1 or 2, but 60 Bhut Jolokias in two minutes to make an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. Since the legendary chilli from Assam made it to the Guinnes Book last year, maybe it is time for Anandita to prove her mettle.
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February 26, 2007
Well, it is time to get back to the Mashelkar committee fiasco — Abi has a couple of links — to two outlook stories and an editorial at Business standard.
Here is the Business standard solution:
In view of all this, it is clear that there is need for a fresh look at the whole issue of patentability. A good opportunity for doing so has been provided by Prof. Mashelkar withdrawing his committee’s report. However, his offer to produce a freshly cast document will only lead to extending the life of the controversy over the panel’s views and how it arrived by them. It would be wiser to apply closure to this chapter and start a fresh examination of the complex issues involved.
Though personally I see nothing wrong with giving the Mashelkar committee another chance, the threat of an extended controversy is real. Hence, this solution looks pragmatic to me.
Having said that, here is what outlook says:
In an exclusive interview with Outlook, Mashelkar maintains that neither he nor his report are anti-national. “At the end of giving one’s best to the country for 64 years, I and my family feel deeply pained and grieved. There are several misperceptions about Mashelkar,” he says. According to him, the general impression is that the report “should have addressed the issue of how to make drugs available and accessible to the poor. But that was not the mandate.”
As per the committee’s terms of reference, it had to look into TRIPS-compatibility of a limited patent regime. “The TOR was whether it was compatible or not. The answer was either yes or no, and why. It wasn’t about public health. It was on a technical and legal issue,” explains Mashelkar.
I agree with Dr Mashelkar; the mandate was not about making the drugs available to poor. It was about a legal issue. However, as I stated in one of my earlier posts in this blog,
The issue at stake is a legal one; from the submissions made to the committee, it is clear that the legal opinion is divided; there is no clear discussion/exposition as to why the committee took the stands it did. On the other hand, the reasons of national interest that the committee propounds (which is not relevant to the legal issue at hand) are not completely convincing to me.
So, though it is wrong to accuse the committee of not coming up with means of making the medicines affordable by the poor, in my opinion, the committee, by propounding its “national interest” theory, in some sense, invited such a criticism.
The outlook story also says:
Mashelkar says he was surprised when he found out later that “8-10 sentences were verbatim” compared to Basheer’s paper. He maintains it was a “copying error by the subcommittee” that wrote the draft and it was impossible to find out the mistake as the committee received dozens of submissions and presentations from the industry and the academic field. “I take full responsibility as I have been very scrupulous in the past, and the nation has trusted me with 11 other reports (including one on Bhopal gas tragedy). It’s a wrong assumption to say it’s plagiarism and to attach motives to it are distortions,” says Mashelkar. In a telephonic talk, Basheer contends that “just because a research project has been sponsored by a pharma association, it doesn’t mean the analysis is biased.” In his paper, he wrote that “this legal opinion is prepared in my private capacity, but is endorsed by the IPI.” Other academicians say that one ought to independently assess the merits of an academic report to see if its conclusions are well-reasoned and based on rigorous analysis, before dismissing it as being biased.
There are two issues here. One is about plagiarism; as we saw in one of my earlier posts, plagiarism is always about ethics and not about legality. Hence, Mashelkar’s stand point about accepting full responsibility for the plagiarism allegation since the report fails to meet the highest standards is commendable. On the other hand, the “copying error” theory does make it look like the committee did not pay enough attention, however painful such a conclusion be.
The second issue is about whether plagiarism automatically makes the report conclusions suspect. The answer is that it does not. However, since the committee does not supply any strong (legal) arguments supporting its conclusions in its report, the plagiarism allegation, at the least, implies that the committee did not pay enough attention. In that sense, the report certainly left much to be desired.
So, what are the lessons to be learnt from all this? We are living in an age where technical opinions matter; giving a technical opinion automatically makes the scientists take stands; so, they have to be careful about the implications of their opinions. This is not to say that they should not give any technical opinion which might not be popular; it means that while giving such an unpopular opinion, they have to make a strong case to convince their opponents of the worthiness of their opinion. In addition, the scientists should also lay their methodology open for public scrutiny and make everybody understand that they have followed the highest standards in their pursuance of the solution.
PS: Here is the list of earlier posts on this issue in this blog:
- To patent or not to patent
- To patent…Edition 2
- To patent…Supplement to Edition 2
- On Mashelkar committee (and plagiarism)
February 26, 2007
India has a young population. Maybe that is one of the reasons why discrimination on the basis of age is so rampant here. There are so many young, fresh souls to choose from. We have written about this problem here.
However, it was intriguing to read an article in the Mumbai Mirror today which said:
Faced with huge salary burden and attrition rate among employees, banks and financial institutions are lining up to recruit senior citizens for their call centres and desk jobs as they are more dependable and are unlikely to hop jobs for some extra bucks. Also, the elderly have been found to be more loyal and honest than the Gen-X, many of whom treat values like honesty and loyalty as outdated
Whats heartening is that it is not just people over forty that the banks are looking at…but senior citizens, people who are well past their ‘retirement’ age. And to tap this resource various banks have approached Dignity Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for welfare of senior citizens. ICICI for example has asked for 100 people who will work part-time and get a good salary, plus benefits.
One doesn’t know whether this is an isolated example or whether it is the beginning of a trend. Being an optimist, I prefer to think of it as a trend. After all everyday in the newspapers we hear about the shortage of qualified people. Senior citizens may well be the second choice for companies, but at least the fact that they can contribute is being acknowledged.
It is about time that importance is given to an individual. About time that we looked at whether a person has initiative and ability, rather than at his birthdate.
February 25, 2007
When The Boston Consulting Group published a research report about the Top 100 firms from Emerging markets set to make waves in the global arena, only three pharmaceutical companies figured in the list and all of them were based in India – Cipla, Ranbaxy and Dr.Reddy’s. The report noted that R&D costs in India are much cheaper compared to the West and the quality of researchers is showing vast improvement. Hence, Ranbaxy Labs’ $87 million annual budget for R&D can achieve quite a lot.
But according to a Financial Times Report, the Indian Pharmaceutical Industry is facing a peculiar problem – traditional reverence to animals like rats and monkeys in India is apparently hindering progress in the R & D sector. The US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators around the world require new drugs to be tested on animals like rats and dogs whereas toxicology tests(that might kill the animals) on such animals are banned in India. This is apart from the likely opposition from animal rights groups like Peta.
For China, it wouldn’t be much of a problem since most of these animals appear to be delicacies there. (Warning: graphic content)
‘Innovative Asia’ : A Financial Times Report- Download pdf(2.6 MB)
Top 100 Emerging Market Companies – Download BCG Report PDF(500KB)
February 25, 2007
The week saw the mutineers sparing little time for disappointment after losing out in the Indibloggies 2007 awards. Congratulations to the winners!
(We are destined for far greater things )
Nita started off the week by pointing out that India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of road accidents in the world and that about 80% of Road Accidents are caused by Human Error.
Vishal takes some time off from the heated discussion on Mutiny to better understand the Hindu caste system and states how he is a working Shudra though he is born as a Brahmin.
Woke youtubed Will Smith singing Aati Kya Khandala and also put together the con-man’s guide to become a handwriting expert. He also stirred up some discussion about the most unspoken religion in India – Atheism. Later during the week he wondered if Ralph Fiennes is the best person to be the Unicef HIV Ambassador only to be pinned down by two Fiennes (or were they UNICEF?) fans.
Ujj scores a Mutiny exclusive with his interview with Anand Jain who is one of the founders of Burrp, an online platform for reviewing local restaurants .
Nita has been using Google desktop for some months now until she found out that it had a major security flaw all the while.Money, she finds is the main reason MTV Desi shut shop inspite of having an audience while she says Colas winning battle against the Kerala government has a different story altogether.
Guru closely follows all the action surrounding the Mashelkar committee and everything you ever wanted to know about plagiarism.
Jo lives to tell the story of a fan on Amrita Express that thankfully didn’t break (as promised by the guard) on his way to Thrissur
Swetha Iyer discovers a nightmare waiting to happen on a pleasure walk in Bangalore. Her post about a disrespect Godwomans disrespect towards the Indian flag sparks anger against Mataji Nirmala Devi – not many found the clarification from a trustee member convincing enough. She ends the week by writing about the Parents and Senior Citizens Bill and wonders if it is a reflection of the times we live in.
Keep coming back next week for more posts and lively discussions on The Great Indian Mutiny.
February 23, 2007
Posted by Wallflower under India  Comments
India has long been synonymous for its deep-rooted culture & strong family bonding to the extent of being called “highly emotional” people. We are among the few countries where parents consider it their duty to fund the education of their children right upto college & beyond, contribute all their life savings for their expensive weddings and are most happy to babysit their grandchildren.
For a generation that grew up on the stories of Shravan and Dhruv, where high-strung movies like Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Vivaah still run to packed houses, it’s funny that today we have come to require the Parents and Senior Citizens Bill. The passing of such a bill subtly warns us that in our hurry to jump the progress bandwagon we seem to have far left behind our principles and values.
Anyways, the Bill lays down that children who neglect their parents could be sent to jail for three months or be liable to pay a fine of Rs 5,000. It also empowers parents to disinherit their children from their property. The best factor of this Bill has been that no age limit has been defined. It’s completely another matter to see how many takers will be there for this Bill among the parent population.
If movies are a reflection of the society we live in, then no wonder we get to see Baghbaan.
Cross Posted here
February 23, 2007
Imagine my shock when I read the headline “Google shuts hole in desktop product.”
I have been using Google Desktop for some months now as it is convinient. One can find any file in a jiffy…from pictures to text files and even the sites searched recently…and now I hear it was a big security risk! Unfortunately I heard about this only now, when the flaw has been fixed.Apparently the flaw was discovered late last year by
Watchfire, a Web application security leader:
…security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Google Desktop which could enable a malicious individual to achieve not only remote, persistent access to sensitive data, but in some conditions full system control.
Watchfire has submitted a research paper on this and what is unnerving is that it says that the Google desktop parasite can “evade current information protection systems, such as anti-virus software and firewalls.”
However what is puzzling is that all these news reports talk as if this flaw was discovered just at the end of last year. The Washington Post says so. The Post goes on to say that Google fixed the problem within weeks of it being informed. But while researching for this write-up, I found a news report which was more than two years old and it said:
Scientists at Rice University in Texas found a glitch in Google Desktop that could permit an attacker to search the contents of a PC from the internet, The New York Times reports. Dan Wallach, an assistant professor of computer science at Rice, and two graduate students, Seth Fogarty and Seth Nielson, say the risk is real, although an exploit would require a thorough understanding of the flaw…the Rice University team say the tool can actually allow attackers to search for files on the PCs of Google Desktop users without their knowledge….According to the New York Times, the flaw is what computer scientists call a composition flaw, or a weakness that emerges when separate components interact. When you put them together, out jumps a security flaw. These are subtle problems, and it takes a lot of experience to ferret out this kind of flaw.
Now this news report goes back to 2004 December. And Google Desktop was launched in October 2004. This means that the flaw was discovered within two months but Google did nothing until a research paper came out? If Google found this out as far back as 2004, why did they refuse to take cognizance of it? Or was it so difficult to find a fix? More than two years? Can you imagine what sort of disaster this could mean to those who have confidential information about their businesses stashed away on their computers?
February 22, 2007
Amritha Express (Trivandrum to Palakkad)
February 2, 2007
Let the picture tell you a story.
A passenger complained to the station guard but got a cold response and an ‘assurance‘ that it won’t break when the train is on the move. The fan was swinging when the train was on the move and the people in the lower berths could hardly sleep. Thankfully, it didn’t break (as promised by the guard) untill I reached Thrissur. I don’t know what happened afterwards.
February 22, 2007
Its a well-known fact that we are a country full of Gods and Godmen. Their influence over people is legendary and they have them in awe. But here devotion seems to have gone overboard.
In the pic: Spiritual Leader ”Mataji Nirmala Devi” & her husband [supposedly an IAS officer & chief of the SCI]
A national flag is a representative of the hopes and aspirations of a country. The Indian National flag being no different, is symbolic of our national pride. I suppose they did not know that there is a Flag code which needs to be adhered too.
Cross Posted here
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